The Good Old Days of Filing Income Taxes – 1948 Edition

By The Banker | Blog Posts, Personal Finance, Taxes
20 Mar 2014
  • Sumo

taxes_dueFor Throwback Thursday, the first day of Spring, and just three weeks until income tax returns are due, I offer up this vintage 1948 Federal income tax for 1040.

My friend – whose grandfather worked in the steel industry in Youngstown, OH – found his old tax return and thought Bankers Anonymous readers would get a kick out of it.

I don’t know why I get a kick out of it, but I do.

Some things remain the same from those times until now, including incurring a ‘loss’ on rental property.  That trick never goes out of style.  Rents, however, have gone up considerably since the $210/year for a duplex rate in 1948.  I can see on the form that he bought the duplex for $11,000 in 1948, so I guess he didn’t need to make that much in rent.

His income as a machinist for the Truscan Steel Company totaled $4,285, and since he’d already had $281.90 withheld, he qualified for a refund of $57.46, according to this return. Hopefully he stayed far away from the 1948 equivalent of an H&R Block refund anticipation loan.

The biggest change from then until now – besides the nominal level of prices – is the relative simplicity of the tax form. It looks like he filled this out in about 10 minutes.

As I look forward (with dread) to spending hours gathering tax information this coming week, only to pay thousands to my accountants, I wish doing ones taxes was not so complicated. The complication itself leads to sub-optimal outcomes.


Youngstown OH steel worker, tax return 1948

Please see related posts:

The problem of tax code complexity

Don’t prepare your own taxes

The ridiculously complicated Traditional IRA Algorithm Infographic for 2012

Adult conversation about income tax policy

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